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[  10-Aug-07] ["Building Community" Project]   

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  • 05Apr29 Session 3, "COMMUNITY"
    Our A/C Initiative held a potluck supper April 29, and we learned from it. Here’s a summary:

    (1) PURPOSE.  “Building Community.”

    The best communities have community churches. No matter how diverse the community nor pluralistic its congregations, this is true.  Maybe it's because communication is more meaningful, a theme sounded by Robert Putnam (Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, 2001).  Indiana University's Polis Project affirms.  People with richer “social capital” (who people know -- their networks of business, professional, and personal connections) are better informed, more creative, more efficient, better problem solvers, and healthier.

    We get "community" from cum (with) and munus (gift, service), meaning a group who give to one another and are mutually supportive. Martin Buber philosophised this was crucial. Hw wrote we should “restore, sustain, and nurture stable and cooperative human relationships” by means of “day-to-day experience of individuals involved real equality and a sense of common ownership of the whole in the specific institutional settings in which they worked and lived” (I and Thou, 1925).

    TV, PCs, mobility, and globalization all weaken community. People dwell private interests.  We cool to community endeavors. We prefer the politics of individual liberty, privacy, and property. Gar Alperovitz frames it concisely in “The Reconstruction of Community Meaning” (1996).

    Both urban neighborhoods and mainline community churches have splintered. “During the second half of the century, this established center was gradually de-centered. The city’s geography, culture, economy, and political power all became more dispersed; its mainline religious hegemony became increasingly riven. Other religious communities became more autonomously prominent, including the evangelical traditions of working-class Southern whites, African-Americans, and other ethnic minorities” (“Sacred Circles and Public Squares: Religion De- and Re-Centered in Indianapolis and the Nation.”

    Robert Putnam sees the nation's "social capital" as declining.  In each General Social Survey since 1974, respondents have been asked, "How often do you spend a social evening with a neighbor?" The proportion who socialize with their neighbors more than once a year has steadily declined.  From 1974 to 1993 it dropped from 72% to 61%.  Concomitantly socializing with "friends who do not live in your neighborhood" is increasing.

    The Surveys disturbingly indicate that Americans are even becoming more suspicious. Those saying that "most people can be trusted" fell by more than a third between 1960 and 1993 (58% down to 37%). The slide holds true for all educational groups.  Probably this too is related to the loss of community.

    Church attendance reflects the trend. Traditional community congregations dwindle as mega-churches thrive. Americans seem as religious as ever, but are worshiping less traditionally and less locally.

    For instance, the Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago attracts 15,000 members to weekend services with live bands, contemporary music, creative drama, and multimedia shows. This modish approach may include removal of Christian symbolism, ecclesiastical language, the organ, robes and the altar – in a sense, almost everything sacred and symbolic about Christianity. Willow Creek’s fitness center and food court more resemble a business complex.

    But modishness is not the key.  The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City attracts 13,000 by appealing to families of former churchgoers who had stopped attending services. It succeeded by creating a church for young adults reminiscent of ones from their youth, and by not watering down its message. Might the real key be authenticity? Might we probe for how people picture an ideal community? Even in religious life, “malls” and “e-commerce” displace “corner stores.” They might have “bargains” and “variety,” but offer less “personal attention” and “service.” What do we miss most about the last generation or two? Both church and neighborhood need to discover what people still care about, are willing to spend time addressing, and feel we are able to affect.

    How about Cherrywood?  Our neighborhood has intriguing parts. Besides 3000+ neighbors we have a good association, businesses, churches, non-profits, parks, restaurants, and schools. Each is aware of the others.  The parts reinforce one another:
    - Asbury reinforces Austin Interfaith, CNA, Maplewood PTA, and MNC
    - CNA reinforces these, FoPP, other volunteer groups, MNC, and UBC
    - Maplewood reinforces CNA
    - Local businesses advertise n the FLEA, and find patrons there,  Each thrives with the other
    - Etc.
    Cherrywood can be a genuine community.  This is an accessible objective  We have risen up way up the neighborhood evolutionary ladder.  Cherrywood doesn't organize to protect property values.  It doesn't seek security behind walls, gates, and privacy fences.  Neighbors don't talk mainly with friends elsewhere.  We are ready to move beyond committees and projects.

    How much farther? The next rung up might be more social occasions where we get know each other better, and trade reflections on matters of common personal concern. This rung would add social capital.  It would yield commensurate benefits.

    (2) GETTING TOGETHER. Potluck suppers?  What else?

    Potlucks are easy and fun. They have minimal planning, minimal cleanup, choices, and surprises. We should do it again. Next time maybe we should experiment with:
    - Thursday?  Folks seem to have other plans Friday.
    - 5:30 or 6:00?  Parents like to feed kids and put them to bed earlier.  Older folks don’t like driving after dusk.
    - Present something? 

    We still need to see what format works best, topical or free discussion?  A little of both?  Should we invite a guest speaker?  Make available beforehand a common reading, organize fun activity for young children, or brainstorm for ideas for future gatherings.

    At our first "Mardi Gras" meeting we generated a rich list of ideas. There is even a Web site devoted to ways to build “social capital.”  Participants have suggested combining social events with topical discussion.  So now we're looking at occasional week night potluck suppers, and at inviting knowledgeable guests to help us probe a matière du jour .  We' need to experiment.

    (3) INTERESTS. What are popular topics for future gatherings?

    We have talked about cheaper and faster Internet access (hence more widely available). The technology is available. We need to decide if could organize sufficiently to take advantage of it.  How would we use it?  Would us build community?

    What other questions might be interesting:
    - How the neighborhood is changing?
    - What will happen if only wealthier buyers can afford homes here?
    - Are only bandaid solutions possible for the panhandling homeless?
    - What would be an ideal direction for Maplewood, Asbury, and other local institutions?
    - How would we like our neighborhood to evolve?

    (4) FIRST RUMBLINGS. What actions are starting up?

    (a) Corner sign. The existing “Asbury” sign might be modified to announce both church and neighborhood events. It should function as a reminder, not as a principal medium. The original sign is triangular. The corner facing the corner could be replaced with a marquee for changeable messages, gently lit by spots on the ground. Modifying it would require blacksmithing, wiring, and installing a new face. It would:
    - be visible to motorists stopped at the corner,
    - incorporate the attractive original sign,
    - not look as "busy" as two signs, and
    - not interfere with motorists' vision at the intersection.

    (b) Host Teatro Vivo? JoAnn and Ruperto Reyes have inquired about arranging for rehearsal space at Asbury. Hopefully after the current production they will inspect the premises to see how well their company’s needs might be accommodated.

    (c) Community wireless. George Holcombe, Terry Dyke, amd I have talked with local people who provide such services to learn more about the options, their benefits, and their costs.

    (5) NAME

    “Building Community" should replace “Asbury / Cherrywood Initiative.” All aspects of the project now are turning toward building community.

  • 05Mar19 Community Wireless

    - Wireless Community News
    - CommunityInternet.US
    - Austin Wireless City Project
    - Oregon hosts the world's biggest hotspot
    - Mesh networks are adaptive and the wave of the future
    - Mesh Networks (from Gary Chapman)
    - WiMAX (from Gary Chapman)

    Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network (Illinois)
       CUWiN Manual (technical) .
       Press release (non-technical) .
       How to build a CUWiN Metrix-based Node (pictorial)
    Community Broadband

    Community Internet (FreeP ress) for technical news
    Internet and Broadband (Consumers Union)
    LocustWorld  (Europe)
       Digital Parish (sample installation: Hayfield, Derbyshire, UK -- near Manchester)
    TeleCommunity Resource Center  The "Connectivity" and "Planning" sections of the TCRC web site will help you evaluate different options and make an informed choice. The "Resources" section of this site offers links and contact information for organizations that can assist you with the planning process.
    Texas Legislature Online   (to search for HB 789)
    Wi-Fi Alliance  Global, non-profit industry association of more than 200 member companies devoted to promoting the growth of wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs).

    - 802.11n standard (2006)
    - McChesney & Podesta, "Turning a Blind Eye," Washington Monthly (2006)

    Austin Wireless
    (Austin)   |  Wireless City Project .
    Carver Branch Library  ( Wireless APL )
    Quacks Maplewood .
    Total Access Networks (works with Wave Forward).
    Wave Forward Networks (Austin)

    HearUsNow  |  Texas

    Gary Chapman (LBJ School)  |  Profile
    Cliff Collard (Wave Forward, Director of Finance)
    Terry Dyke (City of Austin, Cherrywood neighbor) 474-5079
    Lou Ellman  (Austin Wireless)
    Kurt A. Freiberger ( Academy for Advanced Telecommunications and Learning Technoliges,
         A&M) Network Engineer, 970-7026
    Jon Lebkowsky (Austin Wireless)
    Richard MacKinnon (Austin Wireless) 888-577-4176.  Info e-mail .
    Scott Reed (Wave Forward, Dir. of Operations) 853-853-9659.  Fax 853-9732

    Jules Vieau (Cherrywood)
    Jim Walker (Cherrywood)

    Wireless security, "evil twins," and the Wi-Fi Alliance

    Examples of community networks (US)

    See also:

  • 05Mar9 Session 2 (March 8) 05Feb5 Session 8 (Feb 8)

    Asbury United Methodist would like to be more of a community church with a more robust membership. Its current members are an interesting lot and energetic. Many are retired with a well of life experiences.. The sanctuary (built in 1957) is beautiful and peaceful. The congregation was founded in 1948, and though many now live elsewhere, they maintain roots in this neighborhood. The physical facility is centrally located with parking and bus service. Asbury graciously provides space for community activities, neighborhood meetings, and voting. Their pastor, George Holcombe, could only be described as enthusiastic. They bring all these resources to the table. Cherrywood, for its part, has some 2000 homes and 3500-4000 residents including several large apartment complexes. The Neighborhood Association communicates with most homes via a quarterly newsletter (The Flea), and with some 20% of them regularly via e-mail (NeighborNet) and Web (Cherrywood.Org). CNA organizes or supports a range of volunteer projects designed to enrichen residents’ quality of life. It is the neighborhood voice in City affairs. The neighborhood prizes our local institutions – churches, non-profits, parks, and schools – and wishes to see them all thrive. The sum total of all these various contributions make residing in Cherrywood more meaningful, more pleasant, and safer. CNA leadership is collective and strong. The Census Bureau profile of 78722 is < >.Asbury and Cherrywood together have been busily considering how we might join hands to further our shared interest. Some areas seem especially promising. On Feb 8 we gathered to brainstorm and to draw up the biggest list we could. Next will be for each side to consider which these ideas may be worth pursuing, and to focus on those of common interest to both Asbury and CNA.= BUILDING =
    ● Computer lab. Hoovers might help. Offer help to people who are less computer literate
    ○ Next-door house? Room?
    ○ Security? Furniture?
    ● Cushions for the sanctuary
    ● Landscape/garden the premises. Bluebonnets would be appealing.
    ● Music practice space
    ● Net link - AUMC and CNA
    ● Plant exchange (Jack Darby)
    ● Projector (see under Social Activities)
    ● Sign, lit at night and visible, to announce AUMC and CNA events (Austin Energy might help)
    ● Van to transport less mobile participants
    ● Wireless hub, antenna(s). High-speed cable connection. Generate a signal strong enough to be received by homes and home businesses around the neighborhood.
    ○ Digital sharing of AUMC and CNA calendars = PARTNERS =
    ● Cherrywood Neighborhood Association itself < >
    ● Community Service Center (child care, health care, transit)1
    ○ Management issues: security, budgeting
    ● Elizabeth Ney Museum is losing its sculpture space during restoration. They are looking for other sites to continue sculpture classes. <http//>
    ● Open Door Preschool < >
    ● Teatro Vivo 2 < >
    ● Travis County Mobile Health Van come regularly
    < >
    ○ Diabetes education < >
    ○ Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) < >

    ● Highlander Research & Educ Cen3 < >
    ○ Generations: “The Young & the Restless” < >
    ● Homeless
    ○ Action involving the local community
    ○ Dialogue
    ○ Jobs
    ● Kids Summer Computer Lab or Camp
    ○ Seniors Computer Lab
    ● Mentoring at Maplewood < >
    ● Neighborhood dialogues current issues
    ○ Invite political representatives
    ● Interfaith participation < >
    ● Political representatives, invite for Q&A
    ● Public policies. Understanding:
    ○ Ethics
    ○ Impacts= SELF-IMPROVEMENT =4
    ● Classes (facilitate arrangements for willing instructors)
    ○ Art
    ○ Computer literacy
    - E-mail for the “pre-computer” generation with far-flung relatives
    ○ GED
    ○ Health
    ○ Languages
    ○ Music
    ○ Pilates
    ○ Salsa dancing ○ Sewing
    ○ Tai Chi
    ○ Voice
    ○ World religions; Islam
    ○ Yoga
    ● Special-interest groups
    ○ Bible study
    - Vacation
    ○ Book club
    ○ Writing group= SOCIAL ACTIVITIES =
    ● (Note - some of these might combined to form a joint event with multiple constituencies)
    ● Celebration of community anniversaries or “liturgy”
    ● Community garage sales
    ● Family nights
    ○ Music by local bands
    ● Farmers market
    ○ Local gardeners
    ○ Vendors
    ● Game night
    ○ “42"
    ○ Checkers
    ● Movie night
    ○ Requires projection system
    ● Potluck suppers
    ● Sidewalk bake sales
    ● Veggie cooperative= OTHER =
    ● Discussion groups
    ○ Trends in American Christianity < >
    ○ Trends in religion and and politics < >
    ○ Trends in Islam and other world religions < >
    ● Health fair
    ● Security Fair
    ● Meditation
    - - - - -
    - - - - -1 I view the project to become a Community Service Center connected to Cherrywood, Arts, Maplewood School, Transit, Health Care, Child Care Center, and to preserve and grow the religious favor. A replacement for Restaurant Los Altos under the Cross.
    One of the first steps would be to develop a non-profit corporation, set the goals, and determine the amount needed to rehabilitate the facility. (Lex)2 I have one "something" to add to the possible community oriented use of Asbury Methodist. Rupert and I (TEATRO VIVO, bilingual theater) have been searching for an affordable/accessible space to hold play readings, performances and conduct beginning acting workshops for adults and the youth in the community on a semi-regular basis. (JoAnn)3 An open-minded, community spirited, established church in centralish Austin near 35 esp. on our side, close to many resources, on bus lines, with a nice big room (the voting room) and other nice spaces, would be the perfect home to my post-election fantasy answer to "what do we do now."
    I have been thinking about the Highlander Research and Education Center, which brings people together to share skills, strategies, and work for social justice.
    Would Asbury be the sort of religious community, and would CNA be the kind of neighborhood association, motivated by* strong moral values* such as ending racism, providing health care and good education (not just testing) and housing for all, ending the current war of aggression and other similar exploits, supporting committed and loving personal relationships and families without regard to sexual orientation, rooting out poverty, sexism, discrimination against people with disabilities, classism and ageism. (Virginia)

    4 I believe the neighborhood has enough people interested in yoga, tai chi, pilates, etc that if the facility was made available for these kinds of classes at a fair price, this could be viable. Voice, music and art, sewing classes---a writing group, book seems that there are never enough spaces for this kind of thing. It would be great to have these in a walkable distance. (Iumi)

    04NOV25 CNA-Asbury Initiative talking paper .
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